Everyone knows we eat foods fried (or grilled) in oil on Hanukkah – particularly olive oil – to celebrate the miracle of the one-day supply of oil in the Menora of the rededicated Temple burning for eight days.
When, while gazing at the flames, I consume my unhealthy, carb-heavy latkes this Hanukkah, I shall feel less guilty than usual! In fact I hope to feel positively spiritual!
One of the reasons we celebrate with oily foods on Hanukkah is that we are highlighting the unique property of oil. It doesn’t mix with other liquids but will remain distinct. But not only won’t it mix, it will rise to the top!
This is a quality that Am Yisrael must emulate as its essential mission. It isn’t sufficient for us to be a nation separate from others. We must not only be distinct but distinctive. G-D called us an am segula, “a treasure of a nation” (Ex. 19:5) but we must measure up to that treasured appellation. Like oil, we must rise to the summit morally, ethically and spiritually! As we have done so many times throughout our history when the chips have been down. As we did when the Greeks wished to destroy our faith and our values. And as we are doing now!
For months upon end until Simchat Torah this year it looked as though our oil had been lost. We were not distinguishing ourselves in our Holy Land. In-fighting, insult, inter-Jewish hatred almost led to civil war. We were a light to nobody.
It took the tragedy of 22/7 to bring the oil back! For that alone we give thanks!! We are now once again, in our conduct, our chesed, our restraint, our hOILiness, a light to all the hypocritical, pontificating and downright morally-dishonest nations around us!
I shall be savouring my oily latkes this Hanukkah amid prayers that all our hostages will be returned, all our wounded will be healed and the face of evil will disappear from the world for ever.